Spencer ★★★★½

Scrutinizing another famous interloping female public figure from the 20th century frazzled by a deceptively insidious elite eco-system from which she has been displaced in one way or another, the media myth vs. an interpretation of her true soul behind closed doors, Pablo Larrain has struck gold again (2016's tremendous "Jackie" being its sister piece). Even while molding a fragmented tale of her later years within the Royal Family into something of a prison break crescendo, or an underdog sports fable, Larrain adorns his canvas with meditative visual poetry and haunting storytelling choices. But of course you could safely infer that from any movie scored by Jonny Greenwood.

There's a gorgeously unique hazy soft-focus in the camera lensing and a bewitchingly brooding din from the grey-skied countrysides, a startling tactility to the re-creations of royal estates and their interior opulence, a nightmarish reverie as Diana's thoughts wander. We see how oppressive and banal this lavish, privileged lifestyle can be, not just through Kristen Stewart's anguished performance but through cinematic language of blocking, tone and contrast. And like "Jackie" weighing even more than the sum of its parts because of the seismic historical context it evokes, the emotional heft in "Spencer" bleeds beyond the borders of this petite time frame we're privy to, as her notorious fate shadows every scene like an aura of doom the movie doesn't even have to acknowledge, and this tragedy of Princess Diana doubles as a damnation of the British monarchy that pop culture, not just tabloids, has only recently begun to make clear with prominent works of film and television ("The Crown").

So it's an intimate human diary, and a revealing echo of massive fractures plaguing some of the most important people in the real world. And kind of a ghost story! But even without the sordid truth behind it all, it would still be a breathtaking little movie of lovely gothic splendor, devastating fragility, and immaculate acting (when will the American awards circuit ever properly acknowledge the great Timothy Spall), none more so than Stewart's, whose voice and cadences and even mouth movements are mannered in the finest way, creating an eerily close impersonation of Diana that also burrows into her essence (I imagine) and through the ever-blooming charisma and precision of Kristen Stewart herself, finally helped me, for one, understand why so many people were smitten with Diana from the beginning. Thanks to Stewart, and Larrain, and the movies, I can see it now. As usual, this art form has taught me how to better connect with the world. Thanks, movies.

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